Wed, Jul

CAPTAIN Dwight Yorke would much rather play in midfield for the rest of Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup qualifying campaign, providing the Warriors Dutch national coach Leo Beenhakker let's him do so.

Yorke let his feeling known following Trinidad and Tobago's 1-0 loss to the Americans in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

The match saw the Warriors getting the worst possible start when Brian McBride put the Americans ahead after just 92 seconds, beating their previous fastest of 94 seconds, also scored against Trinidad and Tobago some years ago. It got worse for the Trinidad and Tobago when stopper Dennis Lawrence was ejected in the 41st, when he halted American striker Landon Donavon's breakaway run at the T&T goal, with a last gasp desperate grab. But with Yorke running things in the middle, after being shifted from up front, the Caribbean visitors did improve somewhat, despite playing with a player short.

With important back-to-back qualifiers coming up at home to Guatemala on September 3 and in San Jose against Costa Rica on September 9, Yorke feels he makes a better contribution in the middle of the pack, than up front where he made his reputation at Manchester United, and where Beenhakker now uses him.

"I'd like to be involved a little bit more, and certainly I was able to do that in the second half. Am thinking, the second half (in the midfield) is the position I'd like to play, because of my experience. But, the manager is the one who makes those decisions, and I have to go with it."

Yorke would have loved to avoid the slow start. The game had only just begun when John O'Brian's straight pass at the back of T&T's Atiba

Charles picked out Bobby Convey, whose accurate short pass across the six-yard box made it almost impossible for McBride to miss from so close in. McBride just had to beat Marvin Andrews to the pass, and the ball was in the back of the T&T net.

Yorke believed that conceding the early goal was a fatal slip, but credited his team-mates for their effort at not being overwhelmed by the Americans.

"We showed that we have a bit of fight and spirit, even with 10 men. We showed that we can compete with these guys. But, we can't afford to give them the upperhand, as we did."

"I think we played well in the second half, considering we were down a man. The way we started is inexcusable, and it wasn't a good performance in the first 20 minutes. We knew if we started well, we had a chance. If there was an opportunity to get a good result against the Americans, we needed to start well.

Unfortunately, we were not able to do that," he added. Even American coach Bruce Arena gave T&T some kudos for their effort. "Well, they (Trinidad and Tobago) never gave up, we have to give them credit for that. Many teams would have," Arena said.

For a significant part of the match,

Arena's men were cutting apart the T&T defence with excellent off the ball runs, and it was mainly due to some excellent stops by goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, that T&T remained close. Jack began erratically, but improved as the play moved on. During that time he made four excellent stops to keep out the Americans.

After failing to keep out McBride's opener in the second minute, Jack stopped the Americans getting a second in the ninth in blocking a "cute" attempt at a back-heeled goal from American defender Oyuchi Onyewu, who was bold enough to venture into his opponents' penalty area while the Americans were dominating the match. But after stopping Onyewu, Jack almost pushed the self-destruct button, when carelessly clearing the ball low to Donovan at the edge of the T&T penalty area. The T&T 'keeper cleaned up his mess, but his was typical of Trinidad and Tobago's shaky and uncertain play at that time.

Glasgow Rangers defender Marvin Andrews, usually so forceful at the back, was having a shaky time and did his fellow stopper, Dennis Lawrence, an injustice, when letting Donovan intercept his errant back pass to 'keeper Jack. Lawrence was having his usual good game, when he sacrificed himself by making the necessary last-gasp tackle to stop the American scoring, and was red-carded by the Mexican referee.

Blue-vexed after the game, and probably at that stage as well, Beenhakker quickly re-organised his team, making a double-change after Lawrence's ejection. Central midfielder Silvio Spann moved to the right-back position, replacing Atiba Charles, who the Americans "ate up" regularly on the left flank. Yorke dropped from the front to assume Spann's position in the middle; and hard-working Scott Sealy ran his heart out after coming on for Charles to fill Yorke's vacant position up front. Scotland-based Dundee defender Brent Sancho also filled Lawrence's stopper position at the expense of Collin Samuel.

The T&T coach's juggling stemmed the tide in the second half, and when Kenwyne Jones came on for an ineffective Stern John in the second half, he, Sealy and overlapping Spann on the right, kept the Yanks alert with a few threatening drives. But mainly it was Jack's , work that served T&T best.

Young American Convey must have felt he had scored for sure when hitting a low, angled shot, before Jack's left palm kept the ball out. The T&T 'keeper later brought off a similar stop. Jack was pleased with his work on the night, but wished he had stopped the early goal.

"I think I played okay, unfortunately, I could not keep a clean sheet. We knew it was going to be a very difficult game, but we still have four games to play, and a possible 12 points to get."

Unlike Jack, Beenhakker was in no talking mood and totally by-passed the post-match press conference. Almost brooding as he sat isolated at the front off the T&T team bus, Beenhakker must have been well aware that the next two matches could well make or break the campaign. But the Dutchman would have seen some positives on the night and granted expected improvement by some of Wednesday's under-achievers, he would expect a better showing next time against Guatemala.

Sealy's high work-rate and Jones' never-say-die attitude must have been refreshing. Spann played with total assurance, even when shifted to an unfamiliar defensive position. And so did Aurtis Whittley, who was not afraid to keep the ball at his feet and take on the Americans when required. Yorke played a captain's part, Jack held his end, and Lawrence was doing well before getting the boot.

Sancho also battled. But Atiba Charles, who is a better player than the one that showed up against the Americans, Chris Birchall and Avery John, each need to improve on what they did.

Stern John was tough, but looked a shadow of himself. Is he still in a very long slump in form? Or, has Stern passed his best? These are questions Beenhakker needs to ponder before meeting Guatemala.